Europa Report (2013)
Director: Sebastian Cordero
Writer: Philip Gelatt
Cinematographer: Enrique Chediak
by Susan bartley
Europa Report is a smart, relatively low-budget found footage sci-fi thriller that involves a group of astronauts heading to Jupiter’s moon Europa in order to investigate the water that resides beneath the ice crust. The shuttle has dozens of cameras set up all over the place to monitor the crew. The found footage is intercut against traditional interviews with the private company’s management team who financed the mission, who’re interviewed after the footage was released, reflecting on what went wrong with the mission. There’s even a cameo from Neal deGrasse Tyson who expresses his passion in getting to Europa in order explore the water that could contain life forms, lending great credibility to the story.
Europa Report does an excellent job of feeling extremely plausible. Nearly all of the crew understand the risks, though they're more aware of their role in history, being the first team to ever attempt such a mission. They run into operational problems. They - and we - get claustrophobic as the mission approaches two years time. The team needs to control their boredom and cabin fever. Yet beyond resolving their various areas of expertise - engineering, flight, geography, etc. - is their ability to handle the long journey. They quickly and logically discover that mission success extends far beyond scientific erudition. One of the engineers struggles with being away from his family. Two years+ and he begins to feel an unbearable, suffocating heart ache. Another, during a routine maintenance mission outside the ship, becomes drenched in Hydrazine. He can’t re-enter because the material is highly toxic, decompression takes 10 minutes, and he doesn’t have enough oxygen to survive. Turns out Hydrazine is real, and used space flight and is extremely toxic. This is just one of dozens of examples of realistic elements the crew is up against.
That isn’t to say the movie is entirely plausible, but given the low budget, found footage quality I was expecting to constantly roll my eyes, and think “You got to be kidding me.” Instead I was interested in all the characters and the problems they faced seemed logical. While I was a bit put off by the head scientist, Katya Petrovna's (Karolina Wydra) flawless, made up beauty, I chalked it up to a disgruntled financier and let it slide. The team acts in reasonable, intelligent ways as they face the various obstacle. They do things I can comprehend. And while I don’t agree with every single decision, I at least see the point. It’s a movie that makes you forget that you’re watching a “found footage” film very quickly.
BELOW: Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist) deals with the actual possibility of Hydrazine poisoning
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